How to Track Your Freelance Writing Income More Effectively

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Keeping track of money may not be the most exciting part of freelance writing, but it’s still crucially important. In this video, we share a sample Excel spreadsheet and show step by step how I track income, deadlines, and more. If you don’t have a system yourself, Income Tracking Sheet and customize it to your needs. Have another strategy for tracking income? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

What’s in the Bag of a Freelance Radio Reporter?

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Friends have asked me why I’ve invested so much time and expense in radio gear since I mostly write for print. Simply put, I love turning in fully produced, turnkey stories and radio shows pay more for the effort. Piecing together music, interviews and sound effects is like creating an editorial illustration, which is something that I’ve done for years and enjoy. Both are very visual and conceptual mediums.

Of course, you don’t need as much gear as shown in the photo to freelance in radio, but I plan on doing more in the near future – an eye-opening experience for any freelance writers who want to do more.

A: Marantz PMD670 digital, two-track audio recorder – Marantz makes smaller, lighter recorders now (PMD 660, 661) but they don’t have as many features as the full-sized recorders, and their preamps are a bit noisy. Oade Brothers offers a nice retrofit that really improves noise on all Marantz digital recorders

B: Sennheiser MD46 cardioid dynamic microphone – Great interview mic with low handling noise and a heart-shaped pickup pattern that records from the front and sides. Durable, too. It’s survived a few drops

C: Gooseneck mic stand – Heavy but solid. Cast iron base isn’t easily knocked over

D: Audio-Technica microphone shock mount with hotshoe adapter for use on my DSLR camera

E: Audio-Technica AT835b condenser microphone – Directional mic that’s useful for noisy rooms or to record sound from afar. Very sensitive to handling noise

E: 2 XLR mic cables 5-foot/15-foot for use with the Marantz recorder

F: Sony MDR-7502 field headphones

H: Church Audio preamp – Gives my small recorders a pickup boost when using less sensitive dynamic mics. Also improves the sound on my DSLR when recording video

I: JK Audio Quick Tap – Allows me to record decent quality telephone interview sound for broadcast use

J: Audio-Technica ATR-3350 wired lavalier mic – Great way to get clean and consistent sound from a subject that’s either moving or in a loud room. I’ll use this lav mic with the Olympus LS10 clipped to the subject’s belt or in a pouch

K: Olympus WS-300M digital recorder – It’s small and can plug directly into the
computer like a USB thumb drive. I still use it to record ambient sounds or sound effects like a closing door, footsteps, restaurant noises. A single AAA battery doesn’t give you much recording time

L: Olympus LS10 digital recorder – Great small recorder that I use for all of my print story interviews. It has good preamps so also works very well for radio

M: JVC earbuds – Low profile way to monitor sound

N: Church Audio 1/8” plug-in omnidirectional dynamic mic – Cheapest way to drastically improve recording quality on a small recorder

O: Sony MDR-V6 studio headphones – I use these “cans” while doing sound editing on my desktop computer at home

Not Shown:
1 XLR to 1/8” mic cable for small recorders

Bogen monopod – I use this if I need a boom for the mic. Works alright but heavy. I’ll eventually buy a Rode Boompole

Asus 15” laptop and desktop with Sony Sound Forge and Audacity. Ideally, Pro
Tools is the standard software editor in radio but it’s expensive and has a steep learning curve.

Audacity is free, feature rich and Sound Forge allows me to clean up the work

Sennheiser G3 wireless lav mic – Great wireless system but pricey. I borrow this from a friend when needed

Freelance Writing Burnout and What You Can Do About It

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Everyone gets burned out from time to time. Freelancers are no different. There are plenty of great perks to being a freelancer, but sometimes you have that existential crisis. Why am I here? What do I want? Is this what I want to do? Prolific freelance writer and author Kelly James Enger has been there. “With fourteen years of freelance experience, I’m far from immune to burnout. Instead, I can predict that every nine to eighteen months, I’ll go through a period where I seriously question my freelance career.”

Yet Kelly doesn’t let the burnout get her down. Instead she takes the time to evaluate the root causes of her disillusionment, and looks for a way to get through it.

In her new post for Dollars and Deadlines, she describes some surefire ways to beat freelancing burnout.

Here are a few of Kelly’s insights.

If you’re falling out of love with freelancing, first determine what’s causing the burnout. Do you have too much work overall—or simply too many deadlines all falling at the same time? Are your clients too demanding? Is it the type of work you’re doing? Or is it that you’re bogged down with “grunt work,” things like transcribing interviews, chasing down money that’s owed to you, or following up on queries you haven’t had a response to?

Sit down with your choice of caffeinated beverage and make a list of the pros and cons of freelancing. Look at this as a brainstorming exercise; don’t worry about listing them in order of importance or how many you have on each side. Then read your list and compare the pros and cons.

 

Read the rest of Kelly’s post A Surefire Way to Beat Freelancing Burnout at her blog Dollars and Deadlines.

How do you deal with freelancing burnout? What are your own tips for how to beat it?

Make the Business Side of Freelance Writing More Pleasure than Pain

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Writers have a driving need to describe, explain, and express. The change of seasons intoxicates. The vibrancy of fall leaf colors attracts and the irony of such beauty coming at the end of the growing season causes inner contemplation. The creative soul could at times exist and thrive in the world of individual and craft; however, for most self-employed writers the creative process must also pay the bills.

Enter Dr. Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Dr. Vroom’s theory works on the principle of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. Within this work management theory a writer can find a financially rewarding balance between the creative and the mundane.

Simply put Expectancy Theory asks what you expect the outcome of your tasks will be and offers a formula for how well you will succeed based on your mindset. How well you expect the task to proceed will affect your motivation to begin and complete the task. For example, you pitch an article idea but have heard this editor is slow to respond and is even slower to pay after the article is filed or you have worked with this editor before and have firsthand experience of this fact. The creative part of you loves researching and writing on the topic this magazine covers, but what will be the outcome of the task knowing there may be hazards ahead? By using Dr. Vroom’s Theory, you can work through the emotional part of taking this assignment based on how motivated you will be to begin and finish. Motivation has a distinct effect on your bottom line.

The Theory’s three factors grant insight into how you see an assignment from past experiences and if you perceive the outcome to be rewarding or unsatisfying. Do you see the project as producing pleasure or pain? The factors are: Expectancy, Valence, and Instrumentality.

Expectancy: You have the assignment. It is penciled in on your calendar but the closer it gets to the time to contact sources to set up interviews the more you dread getting started. Why? What’s causing your hesitation? Check your motivation so that before you pitch this market again you will know whether it is worth your time. Ask yourself is the pain worth the pleasure. Figure your hourly rate and consider time lost due to procrastinating.

Valency: What is your reward for completing this article? If the subject matter is not your specialty and in fact you find it boring, think through what will make completing the article more pleasurable to you. Will you be compensated well, help others with the information in the article, or will writing the article have long-term positive effects on your career.

Instrumentality: After thinking through your motivation for pitching and completing the project now measure the probability of obtaining the desired outcome which is your project will be more pleasure than pain. Use the following equation:

Force (Motivation) = Valence x Expectancy

The Force or motivation you apply to the project is a direct result of the outcome you want (Valence) multiplied by how you fared previously producing the project or a similar project. For example:

1) If you feel the outcome of this project will reward you in ways that will help your career the Valence rate will be high. The same is true of the Expectancy rate. 2) If you do not believe payment for the project is sufficient and completing a similar project was previously unsatisfying then both rates will be low. 3) One rating can also be higher than the other i.e., you feel the Valency of doing the job is low but did have a good experience previously then the rates will vary. The expectancy rate can be high with a low valency rate, as well.

1) Force (64) = .8 (V) x .7 (E)
2) Force (16) = .2 (V) x .1 (E)
3) Force (36) = .6 (V) x .2 (E)

Force in each of these equations measures your motivation to do a job and can help you make a conscious business decision of whether to accept a project. As usual, you will initially figure your hourly rate for a project but factoring in previous outcomes can keep you from taking a project that will become a time drain. Ask yourself is the pleasure worth the pain as a freelance writer. If not, find a project you are better suited doing. You will, at times, have to take projects you are not excited about, but if the outcome is rewarding then you know you have made the right decision and knowing that will produce a positive attitude toward the project.

Why Using a Smartphone as a Recorder is a Bad Idea

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One of the most common questions that I’m routinely asked by new journalists and investigative article writers is what recorder I use to tape interviews. I actually have two small portable Olympus digital recorders (WS-300M and an Olympus LS10) that I’ve been happy with. Both recorders have intuitive controls and good recording quality. I’ve even used the latter for broadcast interviews. Occasionally, I see journalists using iPhones as a recorder, which is fine if you’ve got nothing else. But the many disadvantages are not worth the convenience for the following reasons.

  • Using your smartphone as a recorder will diminish the short battery life that you already have to deal with. A dedicated recorder uses cheap AA and AAA batteries that you can more easily replace on the go.
  • Dedicated recorders typically have blinking recording lights that allow you to see from afar that they’re actually recording.  
  • Smartphones are harder to operate and monitor on the fly than a dedicated device. Try wading through menus on a touchscreen while in bright daylight and running to keep up with an interview subject. Most digital recorders have a single physical record button.
  • Using your smartphone at a press conference or roundtable means that you’re giving up your link to the world until the event is over. Not a good idea if you need to make or take a call, look something up on Google or snap a photo.
  • The biggest issue I’ve seen is how some smartphones can affect electronic devices while sharing a podium or press roundtable. Cell phones transmit regular signals to communicate with local cell towers and these pulses, especially when on GSM or EDGE mode, can be picked up by nearby digital recording devices and it is loud. Your colleagues will hate you for ruining their recordings.

A few tips:

If you do see a smartphone being used as a recorder, place your recorder as far away as possible from the device. But keep the recorder close to the speaker since distance increases how much background noise the microphone will pick up. If you insist on using your smartphone as a recorder, turn the cellular feature off. Inversely, keep your own smartphone away from your digital recorder while doing interviews. Switching the phone to “airplane mode” is the safest precaution that you can take in both instances.

 

 

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